More Middle Ages on Screen? Reconsidering The Reel Middle Ages (A Roundtable)
Sponsored by the Virtual Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages
51st International Congress on Medieval Studies
Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
12-15 May 2016
Proposals due by 15 September 2015
Like many disciplines in the humanities, Medieval Studies is often challenged about its relevance in the contemporary world. One way to respond to these concerns is to not just engage our classes with the historic medieval past of centuries ago but also with the various medieval presents of today that are depicted in medievalisms found in popular culture, especially in film, television programming, and electronic games, the media most familiar to the current generation of students. To do this, medievalists need have the proper tools to help them to access and engage this material. Kevin J. Harty’s The Reel Middle Ages: American, Western and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Asian Films about Medieval Europe, published in 1999, offered a great resource to do this, yet there remains a lot of additional work to be done with regards to assessing the full extent of how the entertainment industries have appropriated and re-presented the Middle Ages for modern audiences.
For example, by limiting his catalog to only feature and television films set in the medieval past, Harty missed the opportunity to introduce his readers to the larger picture of popular medievalisms on screen that includes theatrical shorts, the greater body of televisual material, and electronic games, all depicting some version of the Middle Ages, as well as works that use the medieval anachronistically or as the inspiration for secondary worlds. In addition, Harty’s book covered material produced only up to 1996, and, while the work was reprinted in paperback in 2006, its data has not been updated in almost 20 years despite the proliferation of medievalisms on screen in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century. Studies that have followed Harty do attempt to compensate for some of his omissions, but essential filmographic and bibliographic information, such as that provided by Harty and that should serve as the start of any research inquiry into medievalisms on screen, remains lacking for these areas with the notable exception of Arthurian-themed material, as Arthurian Studies (Harty’s primary discipline and the first to benefit from his efforts) remains the one field of Medieval Studies most interested in cataloging its representations on screen.
In furtherance of the mission of the Virtual Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages, the goal of this roundtable session is to revisit and expand the ground-breaking work done by Harty by presenting a wider (if not the widest possible) portrait of Medieval Studies on screen by both offering new texts for discussion and reclaiming older ones that have been previously neglected by medievalists. We hope that a greater understanding and appreciation of the complete corpus of medievalisms on screen will benefit our teaching and scholarship and result in more thoughtful reflections on the reception of the medieval past through the contemporary interpretations of Middle Ages most known to the general public.
Presentations will be limited to 10-15 minutes depending on panel size, and the Virtual Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages asks that accepted presenters submit their completed papers for publication on the Medieval Studies on Screen site (MedievalStudiesonScreen.org) prior to the conference to allow maximum dissemination of their ideas.
Interested individuals should submit, no later than 15 September 2015, (1) an abstract of approximately 500 words, (2) a 500-word biography, and (3) a completed Participant Information Form (accessible at http://wmich.edu/medieval/congress/submissions/index.html#PIF) to the organizers at MedievalStudiesonScreen@gmail.com using “More Middle Ages on Screen” as their subject heading.
In planning your proposal, please be advised of the following policies of the Congress:
- The Congress Committee will schedule a person as a participant (paper presenter, panelist, discussant, workshop leader, demonstration participant, poster presenter, presider, or respondent) in a maximum of three sessions.
- All those working in the field of medieval studies, including graduate students and independent scholars and artists, are eligible to give a paper, if accepted, in any session. Enrolled undergraduate students, however, may give a paper, if accepted, only in the “Papers by Undergraduates” Special Session(s).
Michael A Torregrossa
Co-Founder, Virtual Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages